Despite being just 1-3 in his past four bouts and 0-3 in UFC championship fights, Chael Sonnen claims he's just one victory away from another crack at UFC gold.
During yesterday's edition of UFC Tonight, "The American Gangster" proclaimed that his UFC 175 light heavyweight matchup with Vitor Belfort is a title eliminator bout ... at middleweight (transcription per Mixedmartialarts.com).
"I still will participate in the pay-per-view on July 5, but the stakes are up," Sonnen stated. "I am now fighting in a #1 contender's match - the winner of my bout will take on the winner of Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida, my opponent will be Vitor Belfort ... Vitor and I are both middleweights, 185 pound division, and that is the contendership that is on the line ... Consider it a catchweight, that will take place at 205 pounds."
The Team Reign Training Center fighter was originally set to meet fellow Brazilian adversary Wanderlei Silva at UFC 175, whom he coached opposite season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, but Silva was removed after refusing a random drug test and never obtaining a fighter's license, per MMA Fighting.
"Uncle Chael" has been saying for months that "The Axe Murderer" wasn't going to show up on July 5 and it has now been proven he was right all along.
Contest Announcement: Be the first to name the fake injury Wanderlei uses to weasel out of our fight...— chael sonnen (@sonnench) April 1, 2014
Meanwhile, Belfort has been sitting on the sidelines since becoming the first fighter to knock out Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 in November.
"The Phenom" was initially set to meet middleweight titleholder Chris Weidman at UFC 173, but was replaced by Lyoto Machida shortly after the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned testosterone replacement therapy, per FOX Sports.
Sonnen has fought for both the UFC middleweight title twice—both times against Anderson Silva—and the UFC light heavyweight strap. Despite failing to be crowned champion, Sonnen has always fared better at 185 pounds.
On the other hand, Belfort, the No. 2 middleweight in the UFC's official rankings, has also come up short in title bouts against Silva and Jones recently.
Of course, it is also worth noting that Belfort briefly held the UFC's 205-pound title, after he scored a somewhat controversial TKO over Randy Couture at UFC 46 in January 2004.
Does Sonnen vs. Belfort as a middleweight title eliminator bout make sense, especially since their UFC 175 showdown will be contested at light heavyweight?